He was the Unknown Hero. The Cute Crusader. The soother of a city’s anguished cries, the kisser of a populace’s existential boo-boos.
He was the adorable fireman who last month warmed the icy heart of the internet with a viral video of him comforting distraught schoolchildren after a car accident. And yet, his identity was a mystery.
The Hong Kong firefighter who was filmed comforting shocked kindergarten kids caught in a fender-bender has finally been revealed to be 39-year-old Chan Yee-leung.
Chan was one of the firefighters at the scene when two school buses, carrying 25 children between them, collided in Kwun Tong. No one was seriously injured, but the children were visibly shocked, and it was up to Chan and his colleagues to calm them down.
In the viral video, Chan, whose face can’t be seen, comforts the crying children in an upbeat dad voice, asking how old they are, putting them in a line, encouraging them to look after each other, and generally cheering them on — “You’re so brave!”, “Everyone is so smart!”
Recalling the incident at a press conference, widely reported on this morning, Chan said the incident was the first time he had to deal with a large number of children, who don’t often express themselves as easily as as adults, but respond well to responsibility.
“I decided to ask the kids how old they are, and they were mostly 3- and 4-year-olds,” he said. “Kids like acting like the big brother and the big sister, and looking after younger kids. So I found one of the crying 4-year-old kids and said to her, ‘You’re 4 years old, this one is 3 years old. Can you help look after her for me?'”
“The kid will suddenly think ‘I’ve been given responsibility to look after everyone.’ And that’s when the kid stops crying, nods their head and says, ‘OK, I’ll help you look after them.'”
AM370 reports that Chan also said that he is the father of two daughters — aged 7 and 8 — and treated the children as if they were his own family.
“Saving someone’s heart is very important, because a major accident would leave a psychological mark on small children,” he said.
“A senior colleague taught us to show empathy during our operations. Put yourself in the victim’s shoes and take his or her family members as your own. Besides saving lives, you should also take care of the hearts around you.”
RTHK reports that Chan was unwilling to take all of the credit, and was accompanied by his colleague Kelvin Lau Kin-wah, who also responded to the accident.
Lau said: “There were some kids who were crying a lot. So I asked them, ‘Hey, do you know which car is coming to pick you up?’ They said, ‘an ambulance.’ So I asked them if they knows what color the ambulance is, and they also started clamoring and saying ‘white.’ Then I said, ‘Did you know we have yellow ambulances?’ They got curious and started counting how many yellow and white ambulances there were at the scene.”
Both firefighters said they received a number of thank you cards from the children. Chan said: “It was the first time I received a thank you card! I was so happy!”
According to HK01, Chan and Lau are volunteers for the Fire Services Department’s education unit and use their spare time to visit kindergartens and give schoolchildren fire safety tips.
The kindergarten scheme was launched in 2011, and here’s a video of Chan in action.